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The 140 Character POTUS

Trump TwitterVia Michael Kruse writing at Politico:  I Found Trump’s Diary—Hiding in Plain Sight

Many modern presidents have kept a diary of some sort—that no member of the public sees until long after the author has left the Oval Office. The White House didn’t respond to four requests for comment on whether Trump is following suit, but people who know him well say it’s all but impossible to imagine him sitting down with a pen and paper in a quiet moment. “Absolutely zero chance,” one of them said. In the presumed absence, then, of a more traditional version of the form, Trump’s collected tweets comprise the closest thing to a diary this presidency will produce.

This strikes me as quite likely true.  Beyond that, however, it is telling about Trump’s mental and intellectual status.  Most people who use Twitter would almost certainly admit that it is only good for very limited and specific kinds of communication or for trying to point readers to more developed information that requires more than a collection of 140 character bursts.

Twitter can be fun for jokes, snark, and short observations.  It can be useful in sharing links to news and information.  It can be used to communicate the beginnings of ideas and to occasionally have mini-conversations.  It is horrible for complex ideas, making full arguments, and hashing out the subtle complexities of public policy proposals.  And, it strikes me as a pretty lousy way to even keep account of a given day in a diaristic fashion.

It is, I would submit, more than a little disturbing that it would appear that tweeting is the sitting president’s main form of intellectual discourse.  But, as the piece notes:

The Twitter feed is a rolling, thin-skinned, squint-eyed stew of shouted announcements, grudges and grievances, ravaging insecurities and overcompensating bluster. “The Twitter feed,” said Michael D’Antonio, the author of Never Enough, in which he wrote of Trump’s “Twitter wars,” “is true Trump.”

He is how he tweets.

Is there any real evidence that the above is not fully accurate?  If tweeting is the height of the President’s intellectual-communicative capacities, and there is a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that it is, that should be more than a little disturbing.  Indeed, his longer form speeches don’t reveal much more than do his tweets, in terms of complexity of thought or understanding of policy.

Dare I say:  sad.

I will note, that as a political/rhetorical tool, Trump has used the platform with some success, although as the piece notes:

Where his staunchest supporters see evidence of say-anything, establishment-rattling, politically incorrect authenticity, others see reams of ammunition to wield against him. Trump has littered his feed with careless, self-defeating fodder—hyper-public utterances that have been used by judges to block his travel ban and digital pop-offs that constitute “a gold mine” for investigators into his or his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia and his rationale for firing “cowardly” Jim Comey from his position as the head of the FBI. Trump has suggested he might not have won in November if not for Twitter. “Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here,” he told the Financial Times in April. But pulsing throughout the diary of @realDonaldTrump are the makings of “the quintessential Greek tragedy,” said Riley of the Miller Center. “Your strongest suit is also your greatest vulnerability.”

Still, for credit to be fully given for manipulation of social media as a tool of political communication and manipulation, there would need to be more to the strategy.  If Twitter itself is the end, that is a pretty vacuous end point. I know that some have argued that Trumps is playing a larger, clever game here, but I do not see much in the way of evidence to support that position.

Instead, on all accounts it appears that the President’s main source of information is cable news and his main means of intellectual output is Twitter.

This is not a good combination.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    I know I’ve banged this gong before but there is something fascinating and enlightening about the obsession with the supposed intellectual inferiority of one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history. Unfortunately, this window into the fraud and dysfunction of America’s supposed meritocracy will likely continue to be ignored so people can continue to soothe their butt hurt with “Trump is dumb” fantasies.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 35

  2. Mikey says:

    @MBunge:

    one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history

    You know, if Trump makes a hard left turn your neck will snap. Better be careful about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  3. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “…one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history…”

    Born into money, blew it all, ran his business into the ground, ended up taking money from the Mafiya and running a reality show.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: “one of the most accomplished non-military men”?

    Tell me, what has Trump accomplished? Aside from plastering large buildings all over the world with his name, failing to pay workers, and running his companies into bankruptcy?

    ANYONE who had had the advantages Trump started out with would have done better. Heck, just leaving all that money he inherited in a nicely-divested portfolio would have outdone your “accomplished” Trump.

    It would make a cat laugh.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    MBunge, you are insane. Maybe not as insane as Trump, but closing in fast. I hope you have family who will take care of you when the time comes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  6. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    You have to be joking. This is a guy who couldn’t sell vodka and bankrupted four casinos. NO ONE goes broke peddling booze and promoting gambling. Not even you average 85 I.Q. mob guy. He bought the Eastern Airlines shuttle for 10 million, put it out of business in four years, and lost 100 million on that dazzling deal. Trump Magazine, Trump Steaks, Trump the Board Game…all major league flopperoos.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  7. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Getting back to Trump, I’m not quite sure anymore whether there is anything to mine from the resources of the shallowest person EVAH to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He makes the contestants from reality dating shows seem complex by comparison. Gawd!

    @ MBungd: Dude. Seriously! You need to get help for this. I’m not kidding. This level of delusion is dangerous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    “Trump is dumb” fantasies…
    Reality is that your hero Trump is a self confessed sexual molestor of women and you are proud of this pervert.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  9. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @MBunge:

    I know I’ve banged this gong before

    The vibrations of that gong you are banging is causing brain damage – seek help

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Trump is the man who wanted to line the bathrooms of Trump Air with marble….

    We’re not talking about someone who has a firm grasp on the laws of aerodynamics, here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    He also wanted the handles on the emergency exits to be solid gold. And he wanted the bathroom fixtures to be gold-plated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    “Trump is dumb” fantasies.

    The guy (unfortunately) worked with our firm fairly often for a period of time. I’ve dealt with him – close up and in person (which you have not) for years – they’re not fantasies. He has an attention span measured in microseconds and always seemed most concerned with making a splash. He is – to put it kindly – mind-numbingly dumb.

    What you’re watching is the ultimate reality show – gold spray paint over rotting beams. It’s meant to impress people who are either too common or too stupid (usually both) to know the difference. You know, the same sort of people who watch televised wrestling and who think Survivor is real.

    The reality is that it’s an illusion propped up by a mountain of debt & created by someone who couldn’t run a lemonade stand, meant to impress rubes like yourself. Evidently it’s successful in that regard. He’s what a poor guy thinks a rich guy looks & acts like – because they have no frame of reference within which to recognize the real thing.

    True wealth, true power, true influence – those move quietly and detest the spotlight. In that arena, the real currency isn’t money – it’s who takes your calls (and more importantly, who doesn’t …)

    True story – I had to fly to Michigan once to work with Ford. Somehow ended up striking up a friendly relationship with Bill Ford which still survives today. The guy is worth over $1 billion, drives an Explorer and showed up for a meeting with me in sweatpants. Utterly down to earth and without pretense – if you met him & didn’t know who and what it is, you’d never guess it in a million years.

    David Rockefeller – likewise. He was an utterly charming man without an ounce of pretense, who carried the same shabby umbrella for all the years that I was acquainted with him, simply because he liked it and saw no need to replace it.

    There are many other examples I could give you, but I think you get the point. You think Trump is the real thing because you don’t know enough to know the difference.

    Contrast those guys with Trump’s 24 hour Donald Show and that quasi New Orleans whorehouse of an apartment. Trump has spent his life (in vain) trying to become a member of that club.

    And they’re still not taking his calls …

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 3

  13. Senyordave says:

    I’ve never been a “I want to vote for this person because they are the kind of person I’d like to have a beer with”, but Trump is that almost unique person without a single redeeming quality. Quick, name something good about Trump. The best thing I can say is that the way he’s progressing physically since he became POTUS, he might not last the year, much less for years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  14. I think Bunge has simply unlocked “Troll Level: SuperExpert.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 4

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Naah, even the bordellos in New Orleans have more class. Read an analysis that points out Trump’s “style” is more “tinpot dictator”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    intellectual inferiority of one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history.

    So, five business bankruptcies, 2 divorces, and bragging about sexually assaulting women = “one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history?”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  17. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “So, five business bankruptcies, 2 divorces, and bragging about sexually assaulting women = “one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office in American history?”

    Kind of makes you wonder what someone like MBunge has accomplished in his life that this is his idea of the pinnacle…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  18. I would note that even if we were to stipulate, for the sake of argument, that Trump is extremely intelligent, the following remains true:

    it appears that the President’s main source of information is cable news and his main means of intellectual output is Twitter.j

    I think those facts would be even sadder if Trump is, in fact, some towering intellect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  19. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    He boasts that he doesn’t read books and long articles. And he claims to know more about ISIS than “the generals” because he watches “the shows.”

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Every time I see a photo spread of that ghastly KMart-meets-Fort-Knox apartment, all I can think of is a line by the late, great Patrick Dennis: “In America, sex is like money. Those who really have it don’t talk about it.”

    Trump can be explained, or described, in three words: Failed. Social. Climber. If you know that, you understand Trump.

    As for the non-stop Tweeting–sure, that has a great deal to do with the severe limitations on his knowledge and intellect. But it also suits his bizarre speech patterns: a word salad of incomplete, unrelated, random half-thoughts.

    Speaking of which, has anyone but me noticed how excessively fond he is of the definite article? He never refers to “women,” “Mexicans,” “Muslims,” or “black people.” It’s always “the women love me,” “the Mexicans love me,” “the Muslims love me,” or “the blacks love me.” I didn’t invent those examples, by the way; he’s used all four on different occasions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. KM says:

    Twitter is stream of consciousnesses personified. It functions to be a snapshot of a thought tossed out into the ether – either a bon mot or OMG roomie I forgot to turn off the stove help!!! While it may have originally be meant as practical communication, it is now the medium on with transient thoughts get recorded, shared and stored for the whole world to see.

    ….. and that’s Trump’s problem. If this were a literal window to his mind, I’d tell him to keep the latch shut and draw the curtains. He’s essentially flashing the world with his naked stupidity. The man thinks like a child. It’s not the chara count keeping his sentences brief because we hear him talk like that in real time. One cannot claim he is intelligent after sifting through his own words. At best, you can make a case for mildly cunning but that requires a lot of circumstantial evidence and a willingness to believe BS = smarts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    Trump is dumb” fantasies.

    Gonna flip the script. Are you willing to go on record saying Trump is smart? If so, what led you to that conclusion? Based on his own writings, this is not a man exhibiting high intelligence. From what are you concluding its a fantasy to determine he is dumb?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  22. Janis Gore says:

    Here’s another article on how Trump’s tweets are an invaluable source for foreign intelligence.

    Quirks, habits, reactions, inaction, da da da can be read online at any time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. KM says:

    @CSK:
    It’s regional dialect thing. He also pluralized unnecessarily aka “I’m going to the Wegmans’s and taking the 90 out to Albany”. Only thing he’s missing is the “der” sounds and he could pass for an old Polack from Upstate NY.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. CSK says:

    @KM:

    Interesting. But how did a boy from Queens learn to speak like a rural upstate New Yorker? Surely not at that military academy his parents sent him to because he was a juvenile delinquent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. KM says:

    @CSK:
    Association. It’s pretty damn clear he didn’t hang out with the class he wanted to nor was he born to the kind of money that cares about this sort of thing. Joisey accents tend to exhibit this as well since it’s a trait in Inland Northern American English. Little Queens boy hanging with those unsavory types from across the river…… Every time Trump opens his mouth he shows high society he doesn’t belong even when he doesn’t say anything dumb. He’s not adroit enough to pick up on what’s marking him as Other. Notice Ivanka does not do this.

    You can train yourself out of an accent / linguistic quirk – ask any Southerner who’s had to suppress their natural accent for fear of being perceived as dumb. However it takes (1) awareness of how you sound (2) understand of your environment and how they react to how you sound and (3) the willingness to change. Trump got stuck at (1) and never left.

    (PS it’s a damn shame about the Southern thing. My sister’s last BF had the loveliest Texan accent he brutally suppressed because his previous workplace perceived him as slow. Just because one has a drawl doesn’t mean one’s thoughts run like molasses)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Mikey says:

    @KM: Yeah, my daughter dated a guy from the Appalachian part of Virginia and his speech was pure hillbilly. Nobody who spoke to him without knowing him would ever guess he has a degree in neurobiology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. CSK says:

    What’s also interesting about Trump is not just that he failed spectacularly as a social climber, but how utterly inept at it he was. He was never going to be able to penetrate the upper, upper levels of Old New York Society because no one can; you have to be born into them. But you can make yourself acceptable to the civilized newer rich by acquiring some degree of gentility and being willing to donate large sums of money to their pet causes. Trump never got that. He seemed to think that if he made a tabloid spectacle of himself and littered the landscape with temples to vulgarity the van Rennselaers and the Livingstons would embrace him. A deeply stupid man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  28. Joe says:

    To me, Trump’s Twitter mentality and how well it plays to his base (and I think it does) is just another facet of a political mentality that never thinks farther then, “why don’t the just . . .” as the beginning and end of ever political thought. This is a mentality that Trump shares with his base. They talk this way and think this way (and use definite articles in front of interest group names).

    Most of the commenters here don’t think or talk that way, which is why we all wring our hands about the simple fact that Trump does not have the appropriate temperament to be President (hmmm, where did I hear that before?).

    The question is whether Trump voters are in the majority or we are. The next question is how to translate that majority into representative government (or perhaps we have). The rest of this conversation is just us telling each other that Trump and Trumpistas are stupid. Even I am getting kind of bored with that conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  29. steve says:

    Trump and intellectual in the same sentence? (Snicker)

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  30. CSK says:

    @Joe:

    It’s a good question whether the Trumpkins outnumber the non-Trumpkins. I don’t think they do.

    On the other hand, I find discussions of the stupidity, vulgarity, and general buffoonishness (buffoonicity?) of Trump and his drooling acolytes to be endlessly amusing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. @CSK: Well, we know that in terms of voters, there were more against Trump than for him…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  32. Monala says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yup. I once attended the same weekend retreat as Richard Rockefeller. He likewise was kind, warm, and down to earth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Exactly: three million more against him. The real question, I suppose, is how many of his devotees he’ll lose if he fails to keep any of his promises about evicting Mexican and Muslims and building the wall.

    He’ll never lose the contingent that voted for him no so much for his stance on Mexicans, Muslims, and walls but because–not in spite of–the fact that he’s a boor, a boob, and an oaf, which proves he’s a real Amurricun.

    And the top qualification is that he annoys liberals, moderates, and northeast Republicans.

    Trump could rape their mothers, wives, and sisters, steal their life savings, and seize all their guns and they’d happily go along with all three if it annoyed “the elites.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  34. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office

    hahahaha…he bankrupted casinos…a business where the house always wins…and he lost.
    He was handed a fortune which he has diminished…when he could have stuck it in a S&P 500 fund and been much, much better off.
    Actually the blind respect you pay this man, who refuses to pay working men and women the money he owes them, is a window into your own pathetic soul.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  35. Franklin says:

    @MBunge: one of the most accomplished non-military men to win the Oval Office

    I believe there have now been 14 Presidents who never wore a military uniform, so the phrase “one of the most accomplished” isn’t necessarily far-fetched but neither is it particularly meaningful. It’s like me saying I’m the best card player in my family. Maybe I am but so what?

    We know right off the bat that Jefferson was far more accomplished (and successful!) than Trump, but with my limited knowledge of history I can’t similarly vouch for the others in this small group.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  36. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @KM: Jimmy Carter still speaks with a Southern accent and only brain-dead types like El Rushbo would call him dumb. With DT, it isn’t the accent, it’s that he strikes me as repeating his key phrases because he thinks we’re so dumb we don’t get the idea the first time he says anything. I guess to a lot of people, that’s good salemanship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Franklin: Yeah, John Adams; John Quincy Adams; James Madison; Martin van Buren; Herbert Hoover, just to cite a few names off the top of my head. Disgraceful failures, all of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. CSK says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    I can say with considerable assurance that if John Adams had e’er spake of grabbing a comely wench by the pussy, Abigail would have beaten the living shit out of him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Monala:

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rockefeller, but all that I’ve ever heard about him was praise and admiration. The last time I ever saw his father was a few months after the crash. Even well into his 90s he was still spry and just delightful company, but that death I think really killed his spirit. The last time that I saw him he just looked tired and profoundly sad.

    I can’t imagine the heartbreak of having to bury a child. It hollowed him out and he was just never the same afterward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  40. Mister Bluster says:

    …we know that in terms of voters, there were more against Trump than for him

    For What it’s Worth…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. bill says:

    another reason for the msm to hate him- bypassing their only job! somehow they “think” the world revolves around what they perceive to happen at the daily briefing. how pathetic are their lives? that pathetic…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  42. @bill: Dude, the MSM love the tweeting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  43. Janis Gore says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s fascinating. Never know what’s coming next — and the “compare and contrast” opportunities are endless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Mister Bluster says:

    As he demonstrates with every post bill’s world revolves around the adoration of the pathetic sexual predator that is Donald Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  45. DrDaveT says:

    it also appears to be the President’s main intellectual outlet.

    If the lakebed is dry, it doesn’t matter where the outlet is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0